Wednesday 1 June 2011

Are You Getting Storage Efficiency Backwards?

Private cloud storage has been much in the news lately: it’s well up along the “hype cycle.” So it was refreshing to see some cautionary words from IBM the other day at the company’s Storage Innovation Executive Summit. Although Big Blue is one of the biggest players in cloud computing—they have a stake in every aspect of it—VP Dan Galvan warned attendees about a common misconception that’s fueling a lot of the private cloud storage hype.

“Cloud computing isn't about storage efficiency. It’s backward, because storage efficiency is how you enable the private cloud.” He went on to recommend implementing technologies such as storage virtualization, automated tiering, and thin provisioning as first steps towards the efficiency needed for private cloud storage.

Exactly right. Couldn’t have said it better myself, even though I’ve had years of practice talking about just those technologies. Talking, and listening to the customers who have used them to increase their storage efficiency.

Along the way I’ve learned that storage efficiency has multiple dimensions, and you have to take them all into account in solving your storage equation. There’s the technical dimension, which involves parameters like storage utilization, performance, power consumption, and the like. There’s the business dimension, where the numbers are about total cost of ownership and ROI. And there’s the operational dimension, which, due to the rapid proliferation of data, is straight out of the Red Queen’s race in Through the Looking Glass: running as fast as you can just to stay in one place.

The only way to optimize all three of these storage efficiency dimensions is to follow the logic of virtualization all the way to the end. Just as you wouldn’t lock your server virtualization capabilities up in a single server box, you shouldn’t lock your storage virtualization capabilities up in a single array. With storage virtualization software that can run on the same standard server hardware you use for application virtualization, and which can virtualize all your storage, regardless of vendor, you’ll not only nail the technical numbers, but extend your existing storage investment for an even better ROI. And being able to manage all your storage assets from a single point, creating virtual disks with a few mouse clicks, means that IT will be doing a lot less running around.

Doing it any other way is just backwards.

Photo by Ross Berteig

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